Mike Golding chatted to Sue Pelling earlier today about Team Ecover's first 20 hours into the Calais Round Britain and Ireland Race

Although Mike Golding and team aboard Ecover are currently at the head of the Calais Round Britain and Ireland race, which started yesterday, there’s still no guarantee they’re leading.

Team Ecover managed to recover from a false start and, by taking advantage of the back eddies at Portland have slipped into an extremely favourable position. But even Golding who spoke to yachtingworld.com earlier today wasn’t too clear on the situation, commenting: “We had a position on him [Roland Jourdain – Sill] a couple of hours ago and that put us still slightly ahead. Given the current shift that we’re in – a nice right-hand lifting shift – we should be crossing ahead. And we think the other boats: Bonduelle, Virbac and Poujoulat have probably hitched a lift further. Sill is probably on port tack heading towards Start Point. She’s probably second but possibly first. It now just depends how things pan out. It’s very close.”

Despite yesterday’s OCS which forced Golding and team re-cross the start line, their tactical move over to the English coast paid off allowing them to benefit from the tidal advantage off Portland: Golding continued: “We went inshore to take advantage of the reverse current at Portland and just stuck inside the race. No we’ve tacked offshore to cover those to the left and because the tide is in our favour we’re pushing out and waiting for the breeze to track back to the left. We are expecting a left-hand shift. If that comes now then we’re actually in pretty good shape and are almost on the lay-line for the corner.”

For Team Ecover and indeed the rest of the fleet the immediate weather situation looks fairly lively. “It doesn’t look flash but there you go,” added Golding. “But I think we’ll be okay once we’re round the corner. It’ll still be fairly lively but at least we’ll be reaching. Right now we have 20-22kts, bright sunshine and it’s very clear and warm, so it’s not too bad at all.”

Chatting about his ‘poor’start yesterday Golding said: “I think I had a fantastic start. But the race committee thought otherwise. It’s funny though. At the time all our alarms went off we were not on the race course side of the line, when we came back up there were lots of other boats across. We were a bit confused but we just took it, went round the end and rejoined the race. Fortunately we got back in to the race fairly quickly.”

As a sailor who’s more used to sailing alone than with a crew, Golding adapts remarkably well. For this race Golding has four extra bodies onboard (Graham Tourell, Laurent Mahy, Neal McDonald and Brian Thompson) but fortunately there’s plenty of space on the boat and the boat’s systems are fairly accommodating. “Sailing with the boys is great. We’ve all settled down pretty quickly and doing our best not to break anything – lots of hands to do good work. The boat has a fairly big cockpit and we’re quite well set up for it. We’re all eating well and getting good rest.”

The last time Golding raced Ecover was during the closing stages of the Vendee Globe when her keel dropped off. It wouldn’t be surprising therefore to find Golding suffering with ‘new keel nerves’ as he heads off into big winds with a keel that’s only been on the boat for three weeks. Commenting he said: “I have no reservations about the keel whatsoever. Although, the thoughts of it being smaller than the previous one is a bit scary. It is solid of course, and heavy. And [he says with a chuckle] it’s fixed on okay at the moment. It’s a totally different keel. It’s forged rather than a fabricated so hopefully one would hope it would be slightly more resilient. It wouldn’t have the same problems the other keel had. Having said that, this one will probably create all sorts of new problems. One good thing about it is that it doesn’t seem to be slow.”

As forecast, the wind is going to strengthen and the seas are going to build over the next few hours. But once round the corner the fleet should be rewarded with a sleigh ride in winds reaching 40kts. “The worst bit of the race for me, I think,” concludes Golding, “is the bit round the top. Can’t say I’m looking forward to rounding Muckle Flugga which can be potentially very wild. The weather model has changed so it’s really quite difficult to predict four or five days ahead.”